30 September 2020 by James Langley

Increasing small mixed WEEE collection is key, Defra says

Tackling a shortfall in small mixed waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collections is a key focus for regulatory reform, a Defra official said today (30 September).

Alexander Child, policy lead on the WEEE extended producer responsibility regime (EPR) and the restriction of hazardous substances regulations, was speaking at the virtual WEEE conference 2020.

Alexander Child is policy lead on the WEEE extended producer responsibility regime and ROHS at Defra (picture: online conference)

Mr Child pointed to data which showed WEEE collection targets had been missed for a third consecutive year in 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story). Around 35,000 tonnes of small household appliances were collected last year, only 63% of the target total.

Mr Child said: “One of the key areas that contributes to that missing of the targets is this shortfall in small mixed WEEE collections.

“This shortfall is something that we want to address and that we need to address in the UK. As we all know, this is the equipment that can be sat in a desk drawer or in a box in the attic that you simply haven’t thrown away yet. Or worse, it’s the equipment that you’ve put in the black bin.

“Tackling that lack of collections, stopping this small mixed WEEE going in the black bin, will be a key focus of the WEEE reform.”

Consultations on reform of the WEEE regulations are to take place next year, Mr Child said (see letsrecycle.com story).

Reform

Mr Child said the 2013 WEEE regulations had been a catalyst for driving the separate collection of WEEE and reducing the amount that was sent to landfill. He added the regulations had been a “force for good” but there was more Defra wanted to do.

“One of the key areas that contributes to that missing of the targets is this shortfall in small mixed WEEE collections”

Alexander Child, Defra

One potential policy Defra was looking at was to place obligations on producers, retailers and internet sellers to finance the cost of collecting WEEE from the doorstep, extending producer responsibility to the kerbside. He also said Defra was exploring increasing retailer and internet seller take-back obligations on the sale of new equipment.

Mr Child explained that the underpinning objectives of any reforms were to increase WEEE collection for reuse and recycling, tackle free-riding and reward producers for going beyond the regulatory minimum.

He also emphasised that Defra wished to encourage better design of products. He noted the department for business, energy and industrial strategy had recently launched a call for evidence looking at how eco-design policies could be enhanced in the UK to maximise the energy and resource efficiency of energy-related products.

Mr Child commented that the reforms would align the regulations with the wider EPR framework and he indicated that consultations on EPR under the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy are to take place in early 2021.

Regulations

Also speaking at the conference was Louisa Hatton, producer responsibility advisor at the Environment Agency. She too addressed the WEEE regulations and problems relating to the collection of small mixed WEEE.

Louisa Hatton is producer responsibility advisor at the Environment Agency

She said: “It’s interesting to see how much the public’s awareness has been raised of the WEEE regulations, given that obviously there’s still quite a lot of small mixed WEEE where people aren’t taking any notice of the crossed-out bin symbol. They’re still putting items in their black bin.”

Ms Hatton said the Environment Agency’s current priorities were the definitions of EEE and WEEE, export for reuse, the regulatory position statement (RPS) for cathode ray tube (CRT) glass recycling, and issues surrounding the coronavirus lockdown.

Ms Hatton explained that the RPS permitting CRT glass to be landfilled was to allow a few months for separation technologies to be introduced and for new markets to be found for leaded glass (see letsrecycle.com story). While the RPS is due to end on 1 November, Ms Hatton said it was to be reviewed in mid-October to see if it needed to be extended.

She added that from 2020 onwards, as the Environment Agency starts site audits again as part of the recovery from the pandemic, the government body would look to act quickly on non-compliance.

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